Science: Circular Take-Off

Dr. John Gibson Winans, 52, an air-minded professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, was demonstrating last week the first part of a pet theory: that airplanes should take off and land in circles, as tethered models do.

A straight runway, the professor reasons, is fine if it is long enough. But often, even on a very long runway, a faltering engine or iced-up wings can dump an airplane in crack-up territory beyond the airport fence. A circular runway, on the other hand, is infinitely long because an airplane, tethered to its center,...

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